Gifts for Aging Parents
First appeared in Grainews on
15 May 2018
I recently spent a considerable amount of time perusing old photographs as I edited a vanity-press family history book written by my mother. When I showed Dave the wedding photo of my parents – taken sixty-three years ago – he confessed he would not have recognized the young and handsome couple in the image. He’s only known my folks for ten years; this year, my parents will both turn eighty-two.
Bird Seed
Photograph by dee Hobsbawn-Smith
It’s true they’ve changed as they age. We all will. It’s one of those humbling and unavoidable truths. But aging does have benefits to match its deep societal drawbacks. In a recent essay titled “Against Ageism” that appeared in The Walrus, senior-citizen novelist Sharon Butala lambasted western society’s dismissive attitude towards our elders before observing that “I live more in the now than I have ever done… savouring the moment and focusing on it not as part of the spiritual and therapeutic practice known as ‘mindfulness’ but as a natural development in and of the state of being old. It is through this attention to the moment that true joy in the wonders of being alive in the world, so rare otherwise in adulthood, finally comes.”
“Joy in the wonders of the world.” Joy and wonders are both easily overlooked when bodies begin to slow and fade. But small things may take on bigger meanings.
As farmers, my parents led active, physically demanding lives. They lived on a dryland farm, where they kept dairy and beef cattle, a big garden, hay fields, horses and dogs, and a crop of kids who grew up and away. They threw bales, pulled calves, mucked out barns, wrestled with tractor tires.
Missouri Coteau
Cloudy Field
Photograph by dee Hobsbawn-Smith
Nowadays, when I visit my parents for movie night each Sunday, they are usually to be found in their armchairs in the front room in front of the picture window. My dad has happily settled into time spent at his computer, on his stationary bike, or in that armchair, perusing the latest Scandinavian crime novel. My mother has had to let go of all her busy work and crafts and hobbies, although she still takes delight in bird-watching and her small backyard garden. But she’s less adapted than Dad: “I have nothing to do and all day to do it,” she tells me whenever I ask.
Evening Meal
Photograph by dee Hobsbawn-Smith
Their dwindling mobility and dexterity has made gift-giving a challenge. My dad’s aching hands find his e-reader easier and lighter to hold than a hardcover book, and his taste for whisky has diminished. Mom no longer sews. So I have fallen back on the simple things. For Dad’s recent birthday, I gave him a card that he could redeem for a home-cooked meal, for him and a tableful of friends.

“Bread & Water is an emotionally arresting, beautifully written series of essays.”

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“These finely focussed poems [in Wildness Rushing In] invite us into a sensuous and emotionally rich landscape.”

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“dee Hobsbawn-Smith’s stories [in What Can’t Be Undone] are written with a poetic edge. Her descriptions, particularly western landscapes, are often luxurious, lending themselves a kind of nuanced impression, a delicate fingerprint on the reader’s mind. "

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Taste Canada Book Awards Finalist
Taste Canada Book Awards Finalist



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